Mayor Greg Fischer says he plans to reorganize Louisville’s Air Pollution Control District in the wake of two independent audits.
In August, the Kentucky Division for Air Quality found serious problems with the way the APCD handles particulate matter—or soot. There were issues with the analysis of the data the district collected, and the audit also found that some staff members lacked the necessary training to conduct the analysis. That finding was confirmed by the Environmental Protection Agency in September, and in the wake of the audit, APCD Executive Director Lauren Anderson resigned.
Now, the long-awaited results of two independent audits commissioned by Fischer are in. One was performed by Inquest Environmental (a Missouri-based firm); it confirmed several of the problems with data handling, and also recommended some major changes in the way the APCD is structured.
The other focused on organization and management, and was completed by Scott Smith, formerly of Kentucky’s Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, who now is a senior consultant with an environmental consulting firm.
The audits found that employees in the APCD’s quality assurance section didn’t communicate with each other, and the peer review process was lacking. They identified problems with the district’s culture, and called for a new strategic vision to be disseminated by top management, and recommended that the APCD expedite a move to a new facility to better accommodate the district’s organizational needs.
Fischer has appointed Keith Talley to serve as the APCD’s permanent executive director; he’s been in the position on an interim basis since Anderson stepped down in September. In a news release, Fischer noted Talley’s past experience as deputy commissioner for the Department of Financial Institutions in Frankfort, and his “expertise in turning around a regulatory agency.”
The APCD has already started implementing some of the improvement recommended by the Division of Air Quality, Talley said.
He said the two independent auditors “did a good job of putting together a fundamental plan for us to work from, and then in conjunction with HR we will work to implement the plan to right the ship, if you will, get things moving forward and correct the issues that caused those negative audit,” he said.
Here are the key findings and recommendations of those reviews, as summarized by a news release from Metro Government:
- APCD upper management lacked oversight and control over the organization.
- There was a breakdown in quality control and quality assurance in the Air Monitoring Section.
- Upper management must take a more active and direct role in Air Monitoring.
- The number and location of employee positions throughout APCD must be evaluated and the qualifications of current staff need to be assessed relative to each position.
- A Deputy Director should be hired to manage day-to-day operations and improve communication and accountability.
- Some Air Monitoring operations, specifically the laboratory analysis of particulate matter (PM) filters, should be contracted to company that has more expertise and better equipment than city government. It would also save the city from making significant investments to bring air monitoring lab up to acceptable levels.
- The current APCD Environmental Programs Section should be integrated into other sections or programs at the agency.
- A culture of continuous improvement at APCD’s needs to be a priority.
Of course, Talley said the goal behind all of this is to produce accurate information about Louisville’s air quality, and regain the public’s trust.
“It’s absolutely crucial,” he said. “It’s fundamental to the work we do and what everybody else does, so it’s absolutely crucial that we get to the point where we are putting out accurate quality data, and that’s the goal and that’s the driving force behind the reorganization and the changes that we’re making.”